Encroachment case: ‘Illegal’ use of land by private investor at Khanpur

a vast area of state land is annexed by installing cemented pillars fitted with barbed wire on the roadside.


Muhammad Sadaqat August 10, 2011

HARIPUR:


An influential private investor has allegedly annexed a part of state land in Khanpur.


Official sources privy to the record said the Irrigation department of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) had leased out a piece of land around the left bank canal of Khanpur dam, near the Shohal village to Bismilla Powers Pvt Ltd Company, a private investor.

All three stakeholders, Bismillah Powers, Sarhad Hydel Development Organisation (SHYDO) and Irrigation department, entered an agreement on January 1, 2005.

Managing Director Bismilla Company, Managing Director SHYDO and Chief Engineer Irrigation K-P  signed the lease on behalf of their organisations, which allowed the private investor to use eight acres on both sides of the left bank canal for a period of 33 years against the annual payment of Rs147,692 to the irrigation department.

Sources said that under the agreement, the lessee was allowed to install a small power generator to supply electricity to a to-be-constructed cold storage room. The irrigation department allowed him the right of certain share of water that he has diverted from a canal carrying water for Capital Development Authority, Rawalpindi Cantonment Board and other public-private sector beneficiaries. The diverted water, after passing through the turbines, re-enters the canal.

In 2010, the lessee started construction of the cold storage room on the left side of the canal, installed a small turbine and started generating about 10 kilowatts of energy. He used the power generated to supply electricity to the lights that he had fitted around the covered area, beyond the limits of his eight acres of contracted land, according to government officials.

Thus the lessee, according to Wapda sources at the Khanpur dam and Construction & Works department, has illegally annexed a vast area of land by installing cemented pillars fitted with barbed wire on the roadside; on Wapda’s side, he has encroached upon borrowed area (used for earth collection and other purposes during emergency).

He also allegedly chopped dozens of trees on the Wapda’s side. Sources said the lessee has converted the piece of land into a parking lot on the side of the road, blocking access to the canal.

“He collects Rs30 from every picnicker for parking vehicles and motorbikes; he even charges Rs20 from those who come to swim in the canal,” said Safeer Khan, a local.

Malik Imran, who has been contracted to overlook the parking lot, said, “Yes we do charge them because we pay Rs100,000 [to the lessee] every month.” He added that he got the contract for providing security to the vehicles and facilitating picnickers at the spot.

When approached, an official source at the Khanpur dam said he has written twice to Chief Engineer Irrigation Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Chief Engineer Khanpur dam requesting demarcation of the land with the help of local revenue officials.

“We will stop him by force once it’s determined that he has taken over Wapda’s land,” said the official, adding that although his department has handed over the ownership rights of the canal to the irrigation department, Wapda still has the right to access the canals.

An Construction & Works department officer said that the lessee had encroached upon the department’s land near Shohal.

He added that the department had served him notices twice, on June 8 and June 21, 2010, asking him to get a No Objection Certificate from C&W even if he had not encroached upon state’s land.

The letter also asked the lessee to remove the pillars and barbed wire that he used as boundary wall on the encroached land, otherwise action will be taken against him.

None of the Bismilla Power Company managers were immediately available for comments; however Malik Imran, the contractor of the parking area of the encroached land, rejected the allegation adding that the lessee has covered the land that he was allotted under the agreement.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.

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